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How Social Media Algorithms Affect User Privacy

How Social Media Algorithms Affect User Privacy

Netflix recently released a documentary called The Social Dilemma that showed how social media has negatively impacted people’s lives. From privacy issues to social media addiction, the documentary has demonstrated that there is a definite dark side to the social media platforms that have become so ubiquitous in our lives.

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How Do Social Media Platforms Make Money?

Most social media platforms are free for users to create accounts. Even companies can create business accounts with social media sites and it doesn’t cost them a thing. So how do social media platforms make money?

They collect data. This data is collected by the platform’s algorithm and use it to generate ads paid for by other companies that target interested users. In addition, social media platforms also often sell that data to third-party companies.

What Does a Social Media Algorithm Do?

All social media sites run on an algorithm. This algorithm analyzes all user actions, tracking which pages you visit, what posts you like, who you’re friends with, where you check in, and any personal information you enter into your profile. The algorithm collects all of this data and uses it to provide you with more content you’re interested in.

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How Do Social Media Platforms Invade Users’ Privacy?

Have you ever wondered how social media platforms know exactly what content to show you? How they suggest articles for you to read that you’re interested in? How they invited you to follow people that you might know? Social media platforms do all of this by collecting data on their users.

If you’ve ever seen the TV show Parks and Recreation, there’s a scene in which the character Ron Swanson discovers that his computer has been collecting information about him in order to show him ads for products he might want. Ron Swanson immediately throws the computer away. The character is notoriously private, but the point stands that it’s important for everyone to be aware of the data they’re sharing online, even inadvertently.

What Do Social Media Sites Do With My Data?

Social media sites do gather data from users in order to keep them engaged with new content that they’ll like. While users may see this as beneficial, it’s actually a double-edged sword. Sure, users get more content they’ll enjoy, but at the same time, they’re also providing the social media platform’s algorithm with even more data. Many social media sites don’t hesitate to sell the data they collect to third-party companies. It’s also possible for data to be stolen by hackers, bots, and malware.

How Can Users Protect Their Data Online?

Social media sites do offer some privacy settings that users can adjust. These settings can help keep other users from seeing a user’s personal data. You can control who can see what on your social media account. You can also hide certain activities on the website to prevent others from seeing. It can be a good idea to block location tracking so the social media platform can’t see your location.

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